Thanksgiving 2021

Family!

After a few days in Silicon Valley (which included a job interview!), SMS and I flew to DC for Thanksgiving with my side of the family. We arrived in the late afternoon after a pleasant flight that ended with a high degree of nervousness on my part. On the approach, the pilot aborted for some reason and circled around. The reason I was nervous is that there was no overhead announcement and we were at a really low altitude near DC, which I think is unusual given all the restricted airspace. Anyway, we’re here and there were no hijacking baddies on the plane so…another thing to be thankful for!

We showed up about half an hour before dinner, which was perfect timing because we weren’t tortured by delicious smells for hours. We also didn’t ruin our appetite with appetizers since no one saved any shrimp cocktail for us (this is how you know you’re definitely back with family). Dinner was amazing and, even better, it was so nice to be with my entire family again! It was really a special and treasured occasion.

Winning Team!

Lodging-wise, we stayed at The Alexandrian which is a nice hotel right in Old Town. Saturday morning, we walked around Old Town on a beautiful, sunny, and cold day! We went to the Farmer’s Market and bought lunch. We went over to Brady’s in the mid-afternoon and hung out until it was time to go The Escape Room! Joe and Nicole have really enjoyed several in the past and since we were all around on Friday night, we went escaping! And we did with just a few minutes to spare! It was really a lot of fun. We all went out for drinks afterward. It was so nice for the eight of us to hang out for an extended amount of time.

Ed and Meg headed out on Saturday. SMS and I moved from our Old Town hotel to my parents’ apartment for the last two nights of our stay. That evening, we hung out at Brady’s and ate Faccia Luna pizza. Yum.

The next day, we hung out at the apartment until we went to Tyson’s Corner to check out the Lucid Studio. Excitingly, we got to sit in the car and go through the features with a sales agent. We were all very impressed! That night, Mom made her foil salmon for dinner, which was absolutely delicious.

We stopped by Brady’s house for a quick glass of glühwein outside before heading back into the city. We didn’t stay for long since they had to get ready for the week, but it was nice to have one last quick-ish visit.

The next day, we met up with an Ignite classmate of mine for a quick coffee. SMS and his space background were the main draw, but it was also nice to meet a classmate in person!

Futures with its amazing Green sculpture Expanded Present by Soo Sunny Park

Then we went to the Smithsonian for a visit before the airport. First, we went to the Futures exhibit at the recently re-opened Arts and Industry building. It was an interesting exhibit, but second-tier compared to other Smithsonian offerings. Next, we went to the Freer and Sackler (I think now renamed) where we saw Buddha statues and Whistler’s Peacock Room.

Then it was time to go 😦 Mom and Dad dropped us off at the airport, where SMS grabbed a snack/meal at Ben’s Chili Bowl. My flight left about 25 minutes before his and we parted ways to go to our respective places in CA. It was an amazing holiday with family. I feel very lucky!

2021 Wrap-Up : November

Treasure Island Sunset. We didn’t turn into donkeys!

November started with another weekend on call, so nothing too exciting to there. SMS and I had a lot more fun over Veteran’s Day Weekend. I had bought tickets to a Friday night show, so we make an East Bay date night out of it!

First, we went to Treasure Island (not the one of Pinocchio fame!). Instead, it is the location of the Pan Am terminal once used for the Clipper Sea Planes. For some reason, I thought the terminal was used for blimps and I didn’t know what a Clipper was. Inside, there were some informative posters and it was really a cool chapter in aviation history.

Large mural inside the terminal. The mural is on a concave wall, but panoramic mode distorts

Although the exterior was beautiful, it didn’t look the most inviting. I had heard there was a cool mural inside so I decided to try a door, which pulled open easily. We walked inside and there was a security guard right there who paid no attention to us so we guessed that we were okay! The mural is pretty amazing and documents key Navy and Marine historical events. It starts with the Battle of Lake Erie in 1813 and ends with a futuristic space colony. I guess the last bit technically isn’t history but it seemed to fit with a grandiose timeline and attitude of future success!

After Treasure Island, we went to Trader Vic’s. According to the restaurant, Trader Vic himself is the inventor of the Mai Tai. It had been on our list to try and since we were in the area, off we went! It was pretty tasty. I usually avoid Mai Tais and have even been the designated driver at luaus because I don’t like them. But I admit, this one was pretty good.

After dinner, we went to the Paramount Theater for Pop-Up magazine, a live performance from several artists that bring a magazine to life. After having unbelievable luck with a parking spot despite the presence of a serious doubter (SMS!), we walked to the theater where there was a medium line to get in/through the COVID screeners. Entering the lobby was amazing- I hadn’t realized what a beautiful Art Deco building it was. The middle picture above is near the entrance and the picture to the right is from the circle that you see near the top of the middle picture. It is an incredible interior.

Seat view

The show was pretty good. Several writers read pieces that were accompanied by a small band and graphics/slideshow/video support. There was also a Native American spirit dance by two guys profiled in the piece immediately preceding the dance. Overall, the show concept was really cool and I learned a few things during different segments. I don’t know if I’d go to every Pop-Up Magazine event that comes to town, but it was definitely a unique show format. For our first night out in a long time, it was definitely a lot of fun!

Stanford vs Cal. Stanford didn’t do well. At least Stanford can console themselves with their big brains.

The next weekend marked the start of my extended Thanksgiving vacation. We went to the Stanford-Cal game to tailgate with new friends I had made through my Stanford Ignite experience. There were extra tickets, so we were invited to the game itself. It was a lot of fun.

View from the top

We also went for a hike the day before leaving for DC, where we spent the Thanksgiving holiday (separate blog post!). The hike started from Deer Hollow farm. Afterward, we came upon the most Zen goat. A state of mind to aspire towards!

Zen goat

2021 Wrap-Up: October

Shot #3

Boosted and it feels so good! Technically, this happened on 9/30 but we can classify it as a good start to October.

The Master Photographer (SMS) at work

We went to Newport Beach the first weekend. There was a family memorial on 10/2. We had lunch, went on the Bay in a Duffy boat, and went to Roger’s Gardens. The night before, SMS and I went to the Lucid store site to maintain our #1 fan status. I also sandwiched in some online teaching for a board review course.

Later that month after the in-law road trip, SMS and I went to the Native Plant Garden in Woodside, which was small but comprehensive. The mapped layout seemed to differ from the actual gardens but you know, things change over time. We went to the Dutch Goose, which we had frequently passed but never checked out.

We also went to a wine party! Jyotsna and Akshay introduced us to Naidau wines. SMS really liked the wine, so we got in touch with the vintner. This eventually led to a Diwali party invite so off we went! (Even though Diwali was actually on 11/4.) We had a great time with friends we knew and friends we met there. I only took pictures of the wine (priorities!), but a photographer was on site so I downloaded a few of her photos.

Finally, we had a really nice weekend in San Diego to finish off the month. I was on call for Halloween (boo!), but we had a nice day outing to La Jolla. We went to the Taco Shack and then walked down to the cove.

Mr. Bill in Bread & Cie, Hillcrest

Sonoma Road Trip with the In-Laws!

A few weeks after the road trip with my parents, we had a slightly shorter (but just as fun!) road trip with SMS’ parents! We decided to meet up in Sonoma for the weekend with wine tastings, tasty meals, and a fun wine party. We met at Chalk Hill Winery on Saturday morning. Although SMS’ sister gave us dire warnings about how terrible the wine was, we had a really good experience. The weather was beautiful, the location gorgeous, and the wines were decent. We also had a very nice server. Anyway, I decided to send a nice text to Stacy…

Afterward, we headed into Healdsburg for lunch. We went to The Wurst Wing, which is pretty informal, speedy, and delicious. I’m not the biggest bratwurst fan, but there are other options on the menu. For most of the meal, I was on the phone for a group meeting with my professor of a Stanford online certificate program I was taking. So, it was nice to be away from the group when we were at a more informal place, rather than being rude in a more formal sit-down restaurant. Don’t get me wrong-a Saturday class session isn’t ideal but I wasn’t in charge of the scheduling!

After lunch, we went to Roth Estate winery where we sat outside on their patio. It was not as picturesque as Chalk Hill, but still a very nice place. The weather was definitely on our side. Afterward, we squeezed in a third tasting at Lancaster Estate where we sat under the trees. The server was a high school teacher who worked once a month for employee benefits. It was fun to talk to him and get a long-time Sonoma local’s perspective.

For dinner, we went to John Ash & Co, which was really good. Rip and Linda had been there before. I felt like the best search engine person ever because when we were planning the trip, I found it simply through looking in the area and typing something like “good restaurant farm to table” or something similar. Can’t give away all my savant tips and tricks!

The next morning, I woke up really early and grabbed a coffee from A’Roma Roasters, which was a cute coffee place with decent-ish coffee. Then I went back to the Hyatt and met up with everyone else who is normal and can sleep until a decent hour on a Sunday morning.

We had breakfast at the Omelette Express. The breakfasts are delicious and served in huge portions. There are also several classic car front bumpers and grills mounted on the walls. It’s a cool look but I wouldn’t want to be there in an earthquake!

Then, it was on to more wine tasting. We went to Ferrari-Carano, which has a beautiful garden. We sat outside on a large balcony for our tasting, which was really scenic. It was a tiny bit on the chilly side to start but we were all strong people, willing to suffer for the wine.

Then it was off to Medlock Ames! I had bought tickets to the Harvest Party, which is held on their beautiful ranch! It was slightly smaller than years past, but we had some delicious wine accompanied by freshly made pizza. We also went up to the garden, which was had a lot of vegetables including delicious cherry tomatoes.

After the party, our weekend together was done. Even though it was short, it was so much fun to hang out on a gorgeous Fall weekend.

2021 Wrap Up: September

September was a fun month! The most interesting/fun experience was SMS and my road trip with my parents (written about separately- look at me blogging about travels again!). But I also went to a game at Petco Park with my friend Carrie, went on a hike followed by a great lunch, and took a few pretty pictures of flowers.

Picture of Sky Lounge (wedding venue!) from the Park.
An Almond croissant and macadamia-almond milk latte from my favorite- St. Franks

Finally, the month ended with me submitting my resignation request/notification to the Navy. 9 more months in the Navy and then onto new adventures!

California North Coast Road Trip

For the second half of the trip (2 days/2 nights), we headed out to the North Coast via the Russian River Valley. We wanted a little nature to go with our wine, so I planned the trip as a split between Sonoma County and the North Coast, centered on Point Arena.

I hope you make it out!

But first we drink! We started the day at one last winery. We went to Williams Selym, one of the OG Pinot Noir makes in Sonoma. At least this is what two of my friends say and I am too lazy to fact check this. We had a really nice tasting, but it felt a little Ex Machina with Alicia Vanderker. As in, there was a distinct possibility there were malevolent robots who were waiting to do us harm behind the sleek gleaming interior decor.

Getaway cars at Williams Selym

Fortunately, we made it out and even left with wine, which should increase our quality of life. Phew. We drove along the 101 to the 128, stopping for lunch at Disco Ranch in Boonville. It was a super cool wine and snack-y/tapas cafe. Between the food we bought off-the-shelves and a few tapas made in-house, we had an awesome picnic. We ate on their little patio. It was really a neat place and if you wanted to have the perfect Spanish or Italian snacks to go along with your wine, this is the place to shop!

We went for a short-ish hike through the redwoods at Hendy Woods State Park, where we were able to charge our car for a little bit. Then we headed to the coast. Our hotel was in Point Arena. The Wildflower Boutique hotel is a renovated inn that is absolutely delightful. I highly recommend it. The rooms were stylish, affordable, and clean. Each morning, there was a delivered breakfast from four options that we would choose from the night before. The people who worked there were really nice. Overall, it was a really positive experience.

That evening, we went to The Bird Cafe. It is a cash-only restaurant that at the time, was only open Friday-Saturday. Now, it’s closed while they think about future projects but I highly recommend checking it out on a visit. The food was delicious. The walls are covered in bird art (swoon) by Nicole Ponsler. They serve Pelican Bread, which is made locally by a baker who is very into the process (grinds his own grains). The wines were from Penny Royal Farms Winery. Apparently, it’s hard to get suppliers to deliver out to Point Arena so they’re pretty happy to have their arrangement with a winery they think is delicious. We ended up eating pretty much everything on the menu- to be fair, there’s two choices for apps, entrees, and desserts. I really liked it and would love to go back some day!

The next day, it was up to coast to Mendocino and Ft. Bragg. First, we went to the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens. It was beautiful! There were gorgeous well-maintained gardens along the entrance lawn/meadow that transitioned to longer trails along the bluffs. I loved it! The dahlias were particularly gorgeous at the time we went.

For lunch, we went to the Lost Coast Brewing Company, which had good food and beer. Then we were off on the Skunk Train for a ride through the redwoods. It is an old logging railroad that is now perfect for tourists who want to see redwoods without hiking! After the train ride, we headed back to Pt Arena. We had dinner reservations for about halfway down the ride, but when we passed the restaurant it was still too early for dinner. Plus, we were all tired from the driving and thought it would be a lot less fun to drive on the foggy, winding roads through the dark. So, we bought picnic provisions from the little store in Pt Arena and at at the large table in the lobby of the hotel. It worked out perfectly.

But yes, one thought for a North Coast trip. The driving distance is a little deceptive relative to how long it will take due to the single lane, many curves, and slightly decreased visibility depending on the fog. While it’s nice to stay in a hotel for multiple nights to avoid packing/repacking, another option would be to drive up the coast and hotel hop more frequently in order to prevent backtracking along the driving routes. Anyway, things to consider in case anyone is reading this blog for travel tips!

Street band in Pt Reyes Station

The next day, we headed back to Menlo Park. Our first stop was an early lunch at Spud Point Crab Co in Bodega Bay. It had been recommended by Mom’s cousin and it was incredible! We ate clam chowder and crab sandwiches, which were epic. Although I had planned for a picnic in Pt Reyes Station, we had spoiled our appetites but we still went for a walk around town.

We drove to Menlo Park and had dinner at The Little Store in Atherton. SMS and I had an awesome lunch there a few weeks prior and we had high hopes for dinner. But it was kind of a bizarre experience. The owner was pretty weird with strange suggestions and strong wine upsell attempts. Fortunately, we all thought it was kind of funny rather than too off-putting, but I’m not as eager to go back as I once was. The food was still excellent and if I’m in the area and have a craving for French Onion Soup, that’s where I’m going!

Mom, Dad, and I left from SFO the next day. We grabbed breakfast in the Centurian Lounge (yay!) before heading off to our respective destinations. It was an awesome trip! Next up, trip recap with SMS’ parents!

Sonoma Road Trip with My Parents!

When SMS and I got married, we had pretty basic vows. I mean, don’t get me wrong, the basic vows are pret-ty serious. Love for a lifetime? Sign me up! But if we had been the type to write our own custom vows, would we have included the vow to take epic road trips with our parents? Hell yeah!

So, the epic road trip with my parents is first up! For those of you wanting SMS’ parents, wait a few weeks. It’s coming!

My parents were in Wyoming for a mini-siblings reunion (Dad’s side). Back in June, I said that since they were 2/3 of the way across the country, why not complete the journey and come to Northern California for a vacation continuation? Who can argue with that logic? No one. So, my parents arrived on Monday for a six day NorCal adventure.

For the first two nights, my parents stayed at the Hotel Lucent in Menlo Park. SMS has a 1B1B apartment and we’re just not air mattress people. Haha, we totally could be but we don’t even own one now. So, my parents stayed at HL, which they recommend for nice rooms at a reasonable (for SV) price.

On Tuesday, we had breakfast at our place. Canned hash and poached eggs for the win! Then we headed out to Filoli, which is really beautiful. Gorgeous gardens that have a timeless feel. The original owner planted them knowing full well the peak would be in 100 years, well beyond his time here on Earth. The combination of impermanence and legacy is a dialectic beyond the scope of this blog but still interesting to reflect on.

That night, we had dinner at our place since the next few days would be pretty restaurant heavy. Wednesday morning, we headed up to Sonoma for our first day of wine-tasting and culinary delights! BTW, planning tip. While I have turned into much more of a planner over the years, it is crucial to pre-plan at the current time. Most places have limited seating and time-slots and you have to plan your trip as soon as you think of it. The further out the better. It’s a little much but since Hot Vax Summer was thwarted by the Delta variant, I think this is going to be the reality at least through 2021.

Our first stop was Medlock Ames. This is the only wine club SMS and I currently belong too. I think the wines are delicious, and I really like their thoughtful approach to farming and wine-making. I am a little less thrilled that they’re turning more to single-varietal ($$$$) and abandoning their blends. Mostly because I really love their estate blends they make each year. Alas, RIP. 2018 is the last year they’re making an estate red. I would say I should stock up but I seem to drink the wine more than collect it so I guess I should embrace the change.

ANY-way, we had a reservation for the “Olive Grove Experience.” This included a white/rose bottle per 2 people and a picnic basic full of delicious provisions such as Mt. Tam cheese, Bouchon bread, olives, MA jam, MA olive oil, and salami. We had a rosé and chardonnay, both of which were delicious. It was a gorgeous day and a beautiful space. It was the perfect start to our vacation and no matter what the occasion, I alway recommend Medlock Ames.

Then we went into town and had a Northern Italian varietal tasting at Idlewild. I love those Northern Italian wines. Strong reds with a hint of dirt. Yum!

Afterwards, we headed to Chalkboard. SMS and I had been several years ago, but I had forgotten. It’s pretty good but the portions are on the small side. Especially when the waitress claimed that they encouraged “family-style” eating. I guess by family-style, they mean that everyone can stick their fork into everyone’s decidedly individually-sized portion. The food is delicious, but the comic relief was when we all ordered the soup and instead of a cup of soup, received teeny-tiny shots of soup. Several pictures were taken to document the size relative to common objects. I realize this paragraph sort of makes me sound like a pig, but this restaurant was a little on the ridiculous side. But still, delicious food!

We headed back to our hotel which, by the way, was a complete delight! The Camellia Inn was reasonably priced and in the heart of downtown Healdsburg. The rooms were great and the breakfasts were quite nice. We also went swimming both afternoons, which was refreshing after some pretty warm temperatures!

Only two of us got the memo that on Thursdays, we wear pink!

The next day, we drove to Sonoma proper to have lunch with my Mom’s cousins at The Girl and the Fig. It was such a lovely afternoon. The cousins are younger than my parents, but older than SMS and I. We had such a nice lunch and it was fun to catch up. We all had to head out after a couple of hours. The cousins went back to work and we went to Silver Oak.

SMS prefers the Sonoma Silver Oak vs Napa. The tasting room was beautiful. We were outside, which was warm but tolerable since we were in the shade. The view was beautiful, the building gorgeous, and the wines delicious. We all really liked the experience.

After heading back into town, we went for a quick swim and then got ready for dinner. Dinner was at Bravas restaurant, where we had Spanish tapas and split a paella that was phenomenal. We sat in the back courtyard and it was such a beautiful, bug-free space.

The Sonoma part of our trip was awesome. A fair bit of pre-planning and reservation-making, but it made for a smooth trip with delicious wine experiences. Next up, our Northern coastal adventures.

2021 Round-Up: August

August brought tragedy to the little bird kingdom of Coronado. I think Janis Joplin was wrong when she said, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose” since the cage-free flying of Brady-bird and Joe-bird led to a big loss…of their lives!

Don’t Catholic guilt trip me about this one, Mom-bird-human!

Yes, so both birds died and I’m pretty sure it was from nibbling the wood print seen below. B&J were the explorers & nibblers of the group, while C-bird sticks strictly to the seeds. I saw a lot of shavings on the ground right before the birds died. They didn’t seem like they were in pain. They were puffy, breathing heavily, and then, on the bottom of the cage. Now, they are in little bird graves underneath the California native sunflowers, living their best afterlives.

We met up with our friends at Hog Island Oyster Co, where we had the most perfect bowl of clam chowder. The company was also great!

Towards the end of the month we went to Newport Beach with SMS’ family for a private service. Afterward, we walked around Roger’s Garden, which is such a beautiful and inspiring (to the home gardener) place!

Fun at work…it doesn’t even require quarters!
The end of the tomato war. OMG, this thing gives me the heebie-jeebies. It’s a hornworm that turns into a hideous moth.
Pretty mosaic

2021 Wrap-Up: July

July was a little bit of a light month, documentation 5 months later-wise. But there were a few new things. Mochi donuts from Mark’s climbing partner, a stroll through the Allied Arts Guild, finding San Diego mint in various places, and visiting OB with a flight attendant friend. Finally, I did find an animal (I hope) poop on my porch, which I did take a picture of but I’ll spare my readers!

Indeed

2021 Wrap-Up: June

Anniversary flowers!

June was a busy month! SMS was in town for the first weekend and our anniversary. We went on walks, went to South Beach Bar & Grill in Ocean Beach, and went to the Hail and Farewell.

The cast in their dressing room.

The Hail and Farewell was held at Liberty Station, which was a pretty good venue. There was some airplane noise and mild AV issues, but nothing terrible and it was really nice to get together as a larger group. I made a video where “Steven the Intern” was tasked with taking care of a baby egg, similar to a high school home ec class assignment. Other residents’ egg fates are shown in the video and it was pretty funny. I understood the assignment!

Then I was off for a family vacation around the US. In 10 days, I went to West Palm Beach, Washington DC, and Chicago. In WPB, I visited my grandfather and his wife. It was a quick trip, but it was really nice to see them. I went to the gym a few times and forget running to the gym- driving a golf cart is a lot more fun! I also ended up doing the Heimlich maneuver on an older gentleman who choked on a large piece of steak. I ended up doing a pretty deep finger sweep and hooked it out! Hooray! It turned out that the man had several serious medical issues, one of which required him to have his food served in very tiny pieces. In the excitement of going out to eat, no one had thought to check that his food was safe for him to eat. The crazy thing is, after all that excitement, they all stayed and finished their meal! I think I would have left after something that dramatic. But to each their own. Or should I say, when in Florida?

After WPB, I headed up to DC for a few days to see Mom and Dad. I stayed in their beautiful apartment downtown. One of our best adventures out was going to get drinks at the Southeast waterfront on a beautiful day. We sat at a second-floor, outdoor bar and enjoyed a few Happy Hour Tecates. It was really a relaxed, fun place to be.

We also saw a Nationals game! I love the Presidents’ Race and George did not disappoint. I actually can’t remember who won, although I’m pretty sure it wasn’t Teddy.

Brady and I went out for a museum day, which was a lot of fun. She was really busy since they just moved from Japan. They were not only busy settling in, but they were hosting a lot of visitors. She was also about to start her intern orientation so it was definitely a pretty crazy time for her. But I’m so glad we got to hang out. I also saw my brother and his family, but really, my time was too short! Although I got to see my nephews and niece, I was left wanting more! Fortunately, I saw them a lot more during the Thanksgiving holiday later in the year.

General Motors EV1 Electric Car- starting the modern era in electric cars!

The last stop on my trip was Chicago. Ed and Meg were the most awesome hosts in their new apartment. That they own!! Super impressive, says this perma-renter!

The best coffee maker instructions. Illustrations provided for the real caffeine-deprived dummies (meeeeeeeee!)
Tasty, tasty frozen margaritas. Right down the street!
So much fun at the Cubs game!

I went on a run that ended up being longer than I wanted, but I really wanted to run out onto the fishing pier/jetty to see the dramatic cityscapes!

I had been to Chicago a few times before but had never been on a river architecture tour. Ed took me on one that is supposed to be the best (Chicago Architecture Foundation, I think) and it certainly seemed so! We had a great guide and learned a lot.

Finally, we met up with Meg for lunch. She gave me her own architecture tour with the cool triangle-shaped hotel with a great (closed!) rooftop bar and the Walgreens in a former bank that makes good use of the old vault!

We didn’t miss you.

And just like that, my grand tour of America was complete. SMS and I spent the last weekend of June in San Diego. We had a nice hike in Torrey Pines, admired native plants, went to Blue Ribbon Pizzeria in Encinitas, and saw a music bus with a stage on the double-decker.

Summer tomato plant. Spoiler alert: Aphids 1, Plant 0